Similarities surround spree killers

July 7, 2009 10:22:52 PM PDT
Eyewitness News has found similarities between the man who terrorized Gaffney, South Carolina and that of Raleigh's accused spree killer Samuel Cooper, Jr.Cooper currently faces the death penalty after being charged with a spree of robberies that included five murders in 2006 and 2007.

Patrick Burris -who was accused of five killings in South Carolina- was himself killed Monday during a shootout with police near Charlotte.

Burris was paroled in April after serving almost eight years for being a habitual felon.

Cooper was also paroled after serving more than 11 years for armed robbery and escape attempts in 2006 -just months before investigators said he went on a year-and-a-half robbery and murder spree across Wake County. And like Burris, allegedly gunned down five people.

"You can only incarcerate them for so long," Wake Prosecutor Jeff Cruden said. "Certain people are just mean and violent people and eventually they're going to get out."

Cruden said he is trying to make sure Cooper doesn't get out again. He will ask a jury to give Cooper the death penalty.

In a jailhouse interview with Cooper in November 2007, Eyewitness News asked if he was capable of violence if he got out.

"I think we both know the answer to that, don't we," Cooper said.

But Cruden said the record showed the criminal justice system never gave Cooper a break.

"For every crime he's committed under our guidelines he received a pretty hefty sentence," Cruden said.

But unlike Cooper, Burris committed mostly non-violent property crimes.

"Breaking and entering, larceny, forgery and uttering, "H" and "I" felonies, the lowest felonies that we have," Cruden said.

But because he was a habitual offender, Burris' latest conviction put him in prison for almost eight years.

Still, the director of the South Carolina law enforcement division is pointing the finger. And some think he may have been pointing the finger at North Carolina, even though Burris also racked up charges for crimes in Maryland, Florida, Virginia and West Virginia.

"At some point the criminal justice system is going to need to explain why this individual was out on the street," Director SC Law Enforcement Division Reggie Lloyd said.

If South Carolina was blaming North Carolina, Cruden said the blame was misplaced.

"That's not fair at all. He was punished for the crimes he committed," Cruden said. "You can't keep him in there forever."

Some in the criminal justice system said there was just no way to accurately predict which parolees may go on a murder spree. Until they murder or commit numerous violent crimes, they can't be put away for life without parole.


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